Aggregator apps: friend or foe?
Aggregator apps are changing the way news is discovered, consumed and packaged. The popularity of aggregator apps vary largely from country to country. A quarter of the top 20 apps in the news category on both Googles US Playstore and Apples US Appstore are aggregator apps.
More and more publishers have begun to understand the need to have a presence wherever their readers or potential readers are consuming content. Some have chosen to work together with aggregator apps like Flipboard, Smartnews and Yahoo news digest so as to capitalize on this relatively new distribution channel.
The way publishers are distributing digital content is changing rapidly, the New York Times has reported a dramatic decrease in traffic to their frontage which has largely been attributed to an increase in referrals from social media sites and google searches linking directly to articles. The recent removal of Spanish publishers from the google index has had a substantial affect on traffic to their websites. Aggregator apps, although to a much lesser extent than social media sites have contributed to this trend of users discovering news articles through other sources than the publishers front page.
Below are some of the reasons people are choosing to read content through aggregator apps, why content providers have started working with these companies and some of the reservations publishers have about their content being available in aggregator apps.
Why do people use aggregator apps
- A better user experience. The apps focus on delivering the best possible user experience on mobile devices. A uniform design makes it easier for people to view content from different sources in one app.
- It saves them time. Readers can use one app instead of multiple apps.
- The user is exposed to content that they may not have discovered otherwise.
- The content is relevant for them. Many aggregator apps focus on filtering the content for the user through recommendation engines and machine learning. The user receives a personalised, contextualised, localised or social filter of the content. Presenting content thats relevant to the user at the right time and place.
Whats in it for the content providers?
- New channel for distributing content to their users.
- New advertising formats. Many of the aggregator apps offer a revenue share model whereby the publisher receives the majority share of the income. Some allow the publisher to sell their own add spaces within the aggregator apps.
- Target a new set of users that may not have discovered the publishers content through other channels. The aggregator apps serve as lead generators for attracting new digital subscribers to paid content.
Why are some publishers skeptical
- Fear of loosing front page readers and potentially loosing advertisement revenue from current lucrative advertisement placements.
- Loosing control over the users and advertisers to third party content distributors.
Here is a list of some of the current most popular aggregator apps together with some of the trending new aggregator apps launched recently.
Launched in 2010, Flipboard has amassed over 100 million active users in just 4 years. Key features include; an intuitive ux tailored to mobile consumption, user curated magazines and 34000 topics users can follow. Its large user base and media partnerships with the likes of the Financial Times, Vanity Fair, New York Times and recently the Wall Street Journal has established it as the leading news aggregator app.
Yahoo News Digest
Yahoo News Digest provides a definitive summary of all the important, need-to-know news in a given day. Digests are delivered twice a day through a push notification, once in the morning and once in the evening. The app focuses on delivering ‘just enough news’ with a design that leaves the user with a feeling of being updated on the most important stories of the day without having to scroll through endless articles. All users view the same articles, content is generated through a combination of hand curation and machine learning algorithms. Articles are formatted in small bite sized chunks of information that they call ‘Atoms’. Allowing the user to quickly get an overview of the top stories. The app is currently free of advertisements.
The app developed and made popular in Japan has recently made its debut in the US Appstore. The SmartNews app focuses on
- Trending social media articles
- Personalised feed based on the users social media interests.
- Offers a low bandwidth feature for consuming news in areas with a poor internet connection.
- Deals with media publishers including, NBC News, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, AP, The Verge etc.
- Publishers keep 100 percent of ads placed on Smartnews and links open the publishers website.
Google News and weather
The Google News and weather app displays personalised news sections based on the users interests or country. Mobile friendly navigation between categories such as top stories, technology, sports and weather. Article summaries open articles in the source website. The Google news and weather app provides the same news as Google News (news.google.com).
Google Play Newsstand
Access both free and premium curated content, RSS feeds and topic based collections of articles. The app learns from your actions and personalises content accordingly. Content can be downloaded for offline reading. Google play newsstand is preinstalled on many Android devices; with over 1 billion devices and 1.5 million daily activations.
Google Play Newsstand has replaced Google Currents.
Nuzzel keeps you updated with popular news stories shared on Facebook and Twitter by your friends. The most important stories shared by your friends over a set time period are highlighted (default 24 hours). Customised push notifications keep you coming back to the app to read stories your friends have been engaging with.
Circa breaks up the news into bite sized mobile friendly digestible chunks of news objects than can be reused in new stories covering the same topic. Circa combines machine generated content from multiple sources with manually edited content to generate atomized stories. Readers can follow the stories over time to get updated with content they haven’t received before.
Facebook paper is a visually rich interactive iPhone app displaying both trending content and human curated content from well-known publications. Content is divided up into customisable sections.
The Facebook app hasn’t been as popular as many people first predicted.
The Breaking News app concentrates on discovery of new breaking news stories. Customisable alerts make it easy to tailor the app to alert you to stories you are interested in. For example notifications based on your location or a topic you are interested in.
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